Bodywork, April 1997
"Most paddlers concentrate on building up their big arm muscles over the winter," says two-time World Cup champion kayaker Scott Shipley. "Trouble is, they don't realize that the neck, shoulders, and hamstrings are crucial to developing good kayak posture and handling skills." Shipley spends some 340 days a year working in the foam, yet it took a painfully kinked neck two years ago for him to realize that he also needed a well-balanced pre-season training plan. The good news is that his resulting routine of stretching, weight training, and strengthening exercises will tack neatly--and briefly--onto your existing workout. Plan on beginning the routine five weeks before your spring launch. Then do the regimen twice in the first week and three times per week thereafter.
Long days spent shoehorned into a kayak cockpit, with your legs locked in one torturous position, can make the muscles in the backs of your legs painfully sore--especially your hamstrings. To prep them for such discomforts, sit on the floor, back straight, feet together, and slowly slide both hands toward your toes. Stop when your hamstrings become taut, and hold the stretch for 40 seconds.
Each paddle stroke begins with your torso, so you'll also need strong abs and back muscles. And you know what that means: crunches. Lying on an incline bench with your arms crossed over your chest, do 25 reps. Alternate with back extensions: Lie face-down on a hyperextension table with your hips just below the edge, arms crossed in front, and slowly raise your torso to horizontal. Repeat 25 times. Do two sets apiece.
Finally, to exercise your neck, try lying on your right side with your head on the floor. Your right arm should be extended in front of you, and your left arm at your side. Toggle your head as if to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Do ten reps, switch sides, and repeat.